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To Better Serve
Enterprise GIS amplifies the effectiveness of small governments

Cities, towns, villages—in the United States, they represent the smallest level of government that addresses the needs of all its residents. Local governments are also the most familiar level of government. Residents rely on them for everyday services—picking up the trash, providing police protection, and maintaining the streets—as well as managing the future through intelligent and sustainable planning.

More than 30 years ago, local governments of all sizes began using GIS. Initially, this use was confined to single projects. Perhaps GIS gave staff better tools for analyzing land use when preparing a general plan. As the benefits of GIS became more widely known, GIS expanded to departments. In recent years, local governments have discovered that the geographic framework that GIS supplies can benefit the whole organization.

The City of Dover, Delaware, is a small jurisdiction in terms of population (33,000) but a larger one in terms of acreage (26,000 acres). Its enterprise GIS helps city staff work more effectively by letting them access information quickly and provide better service to both internal and external customers. Online applications let citizens locate the information they need without having to visit city offices. The city uses GIS for all aspects of planning, tracking fire marshal activities, collecting utility data, aiding building inspectors, and providing the assessor's office with the data needed for valuations and other analyses.

GIS has also helped Dover deal with another challenge. The city is the home of the Dover International Speedway. Each year, the local population swells to 200,000 when the city hosts NASCAR races in June and September. Thousands of auto racing fans fill the campgrounds at and near the track. The Race Weekend geodatabase has feature classes for storing data on campgrounds, camp road centerlines, vending areas, and outdoor events. City staff and emergency management agencies can access information to assist visitors and safely and efficiently manage race events.

Two articles in this section describe how two small jurisdictions use GIS to better serve their communities in the present and the future. Water department employees in Alabama communities can respond more quickly to problems with rural water systems using accurate and up-to-date maps generated using GIS. These maps will also benefit employees of other utilities by preventing accidental damage to water lines. Lewis and Clark County in scenic Helena, Montana, is using GIS to direct community growth intelligently.

To help more small local governments realize the benefits of enterprise GIS implementations, Esri recently announced a new type of licensing agreement that makes GIS widely available to local governments in the United States with populations of fewer than 100,000 at an affordable price. The enterprise license agreement (ELA) program offers a three-tiered schedule based on population. This program is described in more detail in the accompanying article, "Making Enterprise GIS Affordable for Small Jurisdictions."

San Juan County was one of the first governments to take advantage of this program. The county's population of 16,000 is spread over 136 islands in the northwest portion of the state of Washington. Melissa Crane, the county's GIS coordinator, is looking forward to spatially enabling tax assessments, road management, permitting systems, and other business applications. She also wants the county's field crews to access GIS so they can collect timely, accurate data and upload it into the county's database.

"GIS is somewhat contagious, so more people are getting interested in it and want to learn more about it. With the ELA, we can provide the software they want without any additional cost," said Crane. "It gives people the tools they need to do their jobs and makes it easier for them to get the information they need. The ELA will also make it easier to deliver information to the public. We are public servants, and we need to serve our community; I think this will better enable us to do that."

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